Month: December 2014

Dragon Blade – Trailer

Erm…okay?

Not that I don’t like Chinese war epics, but in English? That terrible facial hair on Jackie Chan is also just terrible. And are John Cusack and Adrien Brody bankrupt or something? Hard to imagine them doing this sort of film.

If there were more kungfu, I might be tempted. As it is, I think it’s going to be one of those critical flops. Still, apparently it went viral. That’s got to mean something, right?

The Equalizer

Well, I didn’t go into this film with any expectations except for Denzel Washington kicking ass. I don’t need an Oscar worthy performance; I already have that in Flight. And I got what I want from the film…mostly. So the movie’s a win for me.

There’s stuff to complain about from a critical perspective, I suppose. I mean, it’s a pretty standard story, with many, many clichés. The ‘old man is former killing expert back in business’ thing really took off after Taken, but it’s getting just a tad stale. Characters were all pretty dull and stereotypical. And the trailer had already spoiled most of the film, so the early segments where they showed a Peaceful!Denzel felt pointless, although it’s really just to set the scene.

I did like the film for the most part, with decent direction to build suspense, but it’s all quite formulaic. I can basically predict how each scene unfolds without thinking too much about it. The foreshadowing was just terrible, especially with the book titles and plots bashing you on the head with what’s coming next. Also, there was a lot of product placement, including Sony products in a Sony film. It was getting into Transformers territory at one point, and that just annoys me.

I would have liked a longer fight scene with Teddy, but a gruesome, sudden end seems more fitting for Denzel’s character. And hell, I think that emphasises just how good Robert is at his job. It’s rare to see a film dare to not have a final death fight with the key villain, so props to the scriptwriters and director.

It really becomes a film about Robert and not Alina, and I’m okay with that, even if Chloe Grace Moretz’s decent performance feels a little wasted as a result. She was a plot device to get him going again, which also means that middle bit where he ‘asks for permission’ from his former CIA boss seems pretty pointless. I guess it was for a bit of character development, but for this sort of film, I think you might as well just forego that aspect and get on with the action.

The only complaints I have about the action is the slow motion tanker explosion, which was CGI-ed way too much and feels irrelevant. Also, Teddy’s death scene was also slowed down way too much. I would also have preferred not to have music during the big fight scene, because as Bourne proved, the scene’s intensity can make up for the lack of a soundtrack, even making it seem more intense. Otherwise, it feels like a Bourne film without all the gritty shaky cam work, given how Robert just straight up owns the shit out of those goons.

Conclusion? The Equalizer is an enjoyable thriller slash action film. So long as they don’t gun for a sequel, I’m cool.

Game of Thrones Season 4

Love Arya+The Hound, Tyrion and Oberyn, bored of Danaerys, spoilered long ago, impressed by Baelish and want to write a character like him, respect for Jack Gleeson for playing Joffrey, super interesting characters everywhere like Brienne, Tyrells, no sympathy for Theon, Samwell is a well meaning idiot, major issue with army of Unsullied marching without food and shelter, Podrick+Brienne+Jamie are hilarious, touching is Missandei/GreyWorm, Sansa got scary finally, Bran’s story a bit meh, Samwell+Gilly is so sweet, meh CGI skeletons, awesome Brienne/Hound fight, Arya gets even scarier, and Tyrion wins at life

So I finally got around to watching Season 4 of Game of Thrones. I’ve been bombarded with spoilers much earlier in the year as it was airing, so I had a good idea of what to expect as I sat down and started watching the episodes in earnest. It took a while for me to get going, especially since a lot of the plot and characters felt foreign having not seen them for some time. It was a good season filled with even more interesting characters, albeit without anything really blowing me away.

It might make sense to some for a review to go in episodic order, but I feel that for a show as complex as Game of Thrones, while multiple concurrent arcs, it makes more sense to focus on characters and the stories surrounding them, rather than the twitchy nature of each episode. Obviously, there are going to be major spoilers ahead.

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Creative SoundBlaster Roar

2014-12-26 02.33.49Well, I didn’t actually plan on buying this baby until I’ve spent my money on other audio equipment, but given the logistical issues in getting my favoured desktop monitors, plus my inherent desire to get my greedy mitts on new gadgets, I succumbed to desire and snagged this puppy during the SITEX ’14 promotional period.

It’s a portable Bluetooth speaker, but it’s also so much more than that. Of course, I barely use its actual function of listening to music given my growing array of headphones and IEMs, but it’s a great option when my ears protest the intrusions of IEMs, or the heat from headphones. Plus, it’s jam-packed with functions, and who doesn’t like something so versatile yet so cheap compared to its competitors?

That’s not to mention its very decent sound quality. Obviously it’s never going to compare to even the cheaper desktop monitors I had been eyeing, but it put out sound that rivalled my old Swan M10, which makes it a pretty decent side-grade in my opinion. It also has the nice SBX Studio package that allows me to tweak the sound to my liking (although I think it’s only for USB audio, not Bluetooth).

It also has a FAR smaller footprint than the Swan; ditto any other dedicated desktop speakers. I’ve occasionally found myself wanting more space on my desk; now that I have oodles of it, I’m already planning how to maximise its use for more audio stuff. There goes my money again…

Finally, it feels great to support a local company in Creative Labs, without having to compromise on my desire for decent audio equipment. It’s been years since I’ve heard people praise Creative for their general consumer audio products (the Creative Aurvana Live! being an exception), so it’s great to see their return to form with the new SoundBlaster series.

What the Waves Did to Aceh

TIME

A few minutes after the catastrophic Indian Ocean earthquake of Dec. 26, 2004, two massive explosions tore through Lampuuk, a small seaside village in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

“I thought they must be crazy,” says Lampuuk resident Sofyan. “The guerrillas and the military are bombing each other — even at a time like this?”

It wasn’t as though you could blame him. Acehnese separatists had been battling the Indonesian army for almost three decades. (For much of the 20th century, they had been fighting the Dutch.) This time, though, the noise didn’t come from artillery. It came from a 20-m-high tsunami wave crashing into the beach — and as the deluge devoured the province, it brought more devastation than all of its previous conflicts combined. At least 130,000 Acehnese perished, and 1 in every 9 lost their homes, in what became known as the Asian tsunami.

But the destruction…

View original post 1,403 more words

Lucy

Well, well, well.

This is one of two films that Scarlett Johansson starred in recently, the other being Under the Skin. I’ve heard good things about both, but knowing the premise of Lucy made it easier for me to choose to watch it on the plane home. It’s not as interesting, and I expected it to be just another lame action flick.

In a way, it was. The middle portion of the film was a lot of action that felt quite meaningless. The ending was a trippy science fiction thing that ruined the film for me. But the start of the movie. Oh boy. For the first 30 or so minutes, I felt as if Luc Besson had finally rediscovered the Midas touch that brought us stuff like Léon and The Transporter (just the first one though). It was a brilliant, intense opening that only got better and better.

And it was all anchored on a brilliant performance by Scarlett Johansson, playing both a slightly ditzy blonde at the beginning, and a cool, emotionless machine at the end. And the choice of a female lead in such a role was great for the industry. Well, sure, Scarlett Johansson is still super attractive, and that only cracks the door ajar for non-white-male actors to strut their stuff as the leads in the film. But it’s a good start in an industry facing a dearth of films that feature strong feminine or minority-race characters.

As mentioned, the ending ruined the film for me, but maybe not in the way you might think. I would have enjoyed the ending much more if the film hadn’t fashioned itself as an action flick earlier, but it did, so the science fiction was jarring and out of place, leading to a somewhat dissonant conclusion to the film.

Another issue was obviously the premise of the film: the 10% of the brain trope. It’s completely inaccurate, and while Limitless did it tastefully by making Bradley Cooper unlock his potential (with side effects to boot), Scarlett Johansson just straight-up gets superpowers. It’s silly from a writing point of view, and it’s awful from a scientific perspective.

But I have to give Besson credit for the obvious Christianity reference he made as the two Lucys touched fingers, like God did with Adam. It’s probably stirred some controversy with conservative Christian groups because that implies that humans can become God, and create life and blah blah blah. It takes guts to throw in something so obvious as that. Not that I care either way (and I personally think it was a little too blatant), but again, guts.

The scene that stood out the most to me though was that driving scene. Having Johansson weaving her way through opposing traffic and causing all manner of car collisions without a scratch was quite some choreography. It was pretty much the high point of the film for me, because right after that was the telekinesis crap in the hospital, and things just went downhill from there.

So would I recommend anyone to watch Lucy? For the opening minutes and the driving scene, definitely. But otherwise, it’s just another movie.

The Expendables 3

I’m not sure why I even bother anymore, but I did. It was a long flight back to Singapore from Nagoya (I managed to squeeze 3 films in The Expendables 3, Rurouni Kenshin: Densetsu no Saigo-hen and Lucy), and I didn’t want to watch a good film on that tiny screen with crappy audio.

Of course, the first thing that stood out as the film started was the bad CGI. It’s so characteristic of The Expendables I wonder if their entire budget is dedicated to paying the actors. Seriously, CGI has gotten insanely good these days. Just look at the work Marvel is doing. And you’re feeding me this crap that someone can probably do without the million-dollar budgets you have?

Also characteristic of the entire Expendables series is the wooden acting, the bad script and terrible dialogue. There were some moments that deserved a short chuckle, but otherwise, everything was Michael Bay-esque. The foreshadowing for Caesar’s injury was so blatant, and there are so many pointless bits of the film dedicated just to introduce the new members, all of whom are unknown to me. The series was built on old action stars that are instantly recognisable. Bringing in fresh, young faces just disrupts the entire premise.

Not to mention the terrible way the plot went about creating the tension to bring about the ‘need’ to hire new faces, said new faces being ‘integral’ to that final mission AKA the film’s climax. Seriously, why can’t you just do the same damn thing as in the first two movies? It would have been a damn sight better than the bullshit served up this time. Hell, in the end the old-timers were the more entertaining; the newbies were just…there. It was so awkward it made me cringe.

Also, the inclusion of Ronda Roussey as a female Expendable was awful. Not that I have a problem with strong female leads (which I’ll gush about in my review for Lucy), but it was pretty clear it’s a publicity stunt. Her acting was bad, her scenes were horribly scripted, her introduction was almost entirely CGI-ed to the point where it felt like the movie was compensating for her real-life inability to fight (when she’s a MMA fighter). All that terrible flirting moments, and her sort-of misandry served to only reinforce female (and male) stereotypes, which ultimately defeats the purpose of her inclusion in a testosterone-fuelled series.

The only good thing to come out of that film is a new appreciation for Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas. Gibson was a pretty good villain, which was sorely missing in the first two movies. I wouldn’t call it a career revival, but it’s nice to see some decent acting that I’ve only ever seen from Mickey Rourke in the series. As for Antonio Banderas, he played a pretty good comic relief, and a far more complex character than I would have expected from such a film.

I really don’t know why I bother so much with this stinking pile of crap. I have got to stop watching terrible movies.

Rurouni Kenshin: Densetsu no Saigo-hen

Well, I’m glad I didn’t go into this one with as much expectation as I did Kyoto Taika-hen. I can safely say that the first film of the trilogy remains the best of all (and isn’t that the case for so many series). I have quite a few issues with Densetsu no Saigo-hen, and not even the epic fight choreography can make up for the deficiencies of the film; fight choreography that I think is even superior to that of the first movie.

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Apple’s Broken Promises – BBC Panorama

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04vs348/panorama-apples-broken-promises

*The video requires a UK IP address to access (I recommend the extension Hola if you’re using FireFox).

Shocking. Just shocking. But after the hour-long program, I don’t know what’s worse. Apple’s lies and hypocrisy about their supply chain, or my own unwillingness to abandon Apple products despite my supposed dislike for said hypocrisy. I can justify it to myself by saying that most, if not all electronics companies do the same, and I shouldn’t drop Apple products because of the materials they use, or the terrible working conditions that went into making them. But the amount of posturing from Apple about how they are above all other companies is staggering in the face of these accusations.

I have even more respect for the Apple marketing division now. Not only did they create a cult, but they’ve managed to con millions of people into thinking they actually give a shit about more than just profits. Turns out they are pretty much like every other company. Kudos.

In the end, even after all this is revealed, is any Apple product user going to give up their electronics? Is anything going to be done by Apple or the consumer? I doubt it. I can’t see myself giving up the OSX environment, and I’m not even a fanatic. I feel dirty typing this on my MacBook Pro, but in a few days’ time, this will probably all be forgotten. So much for all of my own bullshit regarding human rights on this blog.